Sustainable seafood slowly coming to our region

Last night I heard comments at a small discussion group of shock over blue claw crab prices. The thing is, I’ve been a promoter of sustainable pricing for a long time. Only now are others coming on board with the concept.

Local sellers are increasing prices based on supply and demand, not because they’ve had an awakening over sustainable business models. Some examples:

  • The price of live #1 crabs in Port Norris , New Jersey was $68/dozen last weekend.
  • A bushel of cooked #2 crabs is sold for $220 across the bay at a Delaware facility.
  • This past week I recommended a retail price of $75 for a tray of 25 cooked, cleaned and chilled #2 crabs as part of a consultant project for a New Jersey seafood business plan. This is product is in testing but not currently available on the market here as far as I know.
proposed seafood product in testing
A proposed seafood product in testing , not yet offered commercially

Why oysters?

People ask me “Why are you interested in oysters?”

First, oysters are the primary means of removing nutrient pollution from the water. Nutrient pollution is the primary type of water contamination and the type that kills more fish than any other bu creating “dead zones” of  depleted dissolved oxygen. Oysters are filter feeders that take nitrogen and phosphorus and other impurities that run off from farms and lawns upriver.

Second, oysters are picked as the primary method of protecting our communities (places no less than New York City) from future storms like Sandy.

Third, in an aquaculture setting oysters are a great tasty food source for a world soon to be facing a major worldwide protein shortage crisis.


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, Money Island NJ is already the focal point of the Delaware Bay oyster industry and is poised to be in the middle of a dramatic growth spurt that industry in the years ahead. Advances in technology, both mechanical and biological, are accelerating the pace of expansion. The Delaware Bay is home to only 2% of the number of oysters at the peak of the industry decades ago. Expressed in current inflation-adjusted dollars, the value of the New Jersey oysters harvest in the Delaware Bay topped $90 Million in 1929.  We have no doubt that the industry will catch up and pass that mark in he near future. State Impact NJ recently covered the beginning of the rebound of the Delaware Bay oyster industry.


, this explains our two primary goals at Money Island:

1) Raise investment capital to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of oyster and crab aquaculture industry growth. Immediate stabilization need is $100

,000 and private investment for long term public/private redevelopment is $100,000,000.


2) Preserve the rights of the multiple use stakeholders (recreational fishermen, ecotourists and other users) that might otherwise be pushed out of this unique small waterfront community by the larger, wealthier and more powerful oyster industry.

Our Money Island Working Waterfront Redevelopment Plan, available online, addresses all of these issues. I am pleased to discuss this topic in more detail with stakeholders and investors.

oyster close up.JPG

Understanding water quality

Overall. the Delaware Bay fares better than most estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay to the southwest and the Barnegat Bay to the northeast

Water quality monitoring measures potential contaminants that fall into three categories: chemical and nutrient. and bacterial. A overly simplistic way to think of it is that chemical contaminants come from factories, nutrient contaminants come from farms and bacterial contamination comes from untreated sewage.


Here in the Delaware Bay we are concerned with only one type of chemical containment. PCBs have settled into the waterbed and are found in trace amounts throughout the system. These chemicals are known to cause cancer and other health problems in humans. While PCBs are not harmful in the diluted amounts found in the  water

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,  the problem is that they build up and concentrate in fish tissues where we can ingest the higher and possibly more dangerous amounts,

PCBs are man-made chemicals that were used in electrical equipment like capacitors and transformers. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, with no smell or taste. The good news is that we don’t make them and pollute our water with them anymore. That means that the other good news is that the level of PCBs is going down in the Delaware Bay. The bad news is that they are everywhere in the environment,  last a long time, and are almost indestructable. PCBs are stable and remain in the environment at low levels for many decades,. However, the chemical is found to concentrate inside fish tissue, especially the fatty portion.

Both New Jersey and Delaware issue advisories limiting the recommended amount of fish that should be eaten.


The primary nutrient pollutant is nitrogen. Over abundance of nitrogen leads to low levels of water oxygen and fish kills. Nitrogen comes from fertilizer and farm runoff. When we discuss “water pollution” in the Delaware Bay

, the discussion is focused on nutrients.


Several strains of potentially dangerous bacteria live in the Delaware Bay and they reach potentially harmful levels in summer. The bacteria we hear most about is E. coli from untreated bird, human or animal feces. Birds are the primary contributor of E. coli in the Delaware Bay occasionally after a storm or flood the source is identified as human. In these cases shellfish harvesting is temporarily halted. Our bay water at Money Island is tested regularly for E. coli and no problems lately. Other types of bacteria can cause infection of open wounds. It is important to clean and disinfect skin abrasions when working in or around the bay

, especially in summer.

Overall our water quality compares well to surrounding waterways and is gradually improving.

What does all of this mean to us? It is pretty simple:

  1. follow shellfish harvesting rules
  2. Don’t consume too much of some fish species
  3. Clean and disinfect wounds.

Crab Kickstarter ended today

kickstarter endOur 30 day Kickstarter campaign ended today. The goal was to reach 60 retail customers in advance by taking crab orders at lower than retail price. The thought was that this would give a critical mass to justify the start-up costs of setting up a shipping system. We know shipping is expensive so that is a detriment to these sales.

The campaign ended with just 5 pledges. I obviously have more to learn about these campaigns. Meanwhile

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, however, we put a massive wholesale sales system in place and are working on an alternate retail distribution method using a food truck.

The next retail project we try is likely to be an online auction system to price and allocate crabs during periods of peak demand like holiday weekends.

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Seafood trends

blue claw crabThe most recent fisheries report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) gives some interesting insights into seafood trends using the most recent data from 2015 and 2016.

Prices are up slightly. Overall U.S. landings volume of seafood decreased 1.5% from 2015 to 2016 while the value of seafood landed increased 2.1%.

Non-food use –  22% of U.S. landings are used for non-seafood purposes (pet food, fish meal. We presume a significant portion of this is our nearby neighbor Omega Protein that dominates menhaden harvest.

We are growing more valuable seafood – U.S. aquaculture production is only 6% of U.S. seafood volume production, but accounts for 21% of U.S. seafood value production.

Consumption – Per capita seafood consumption in the U.S. is 14.9 lbs., a decrease of 0.6 lbs from 2015. Even though per capita consumption is less than other countries, the U.S. is the 2nd largest consumer of seafood globally, behind China due to our size and affluence.

World production – Most, 85 to 95% of the seafood we eat in the U.S. is imported. However this statistic may be distorted. A significant amount of this seafood is caught in U.S. waters, exported to other countries for processing and then reimported.

Blue claw crab – Hard blue crab landings decreased both in volume and price compared to 2015.  The Middle Atlantic region increased almost 8% in 2016 compared to the prior year but the price decreased 8% over the prior year. (This is why the industry is suffering and why we got involved to te to help).  Total U.S. landings of blue claw crab were 157.5 million pounds valued at $213.8 million—a decrease of almost 1.2 million pounds (1 percent) and $21 million (nearly 9 percent) compared with 2015. Louisiana landed more than 24 percent of the total U.S. landings followed by: Maryland

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, 22 percent; Virginia, more than 17 percent; and North Carolina, 16 percent. Hard blue crab landings in the South Atlantic, with almost 34.7 million pounds, decreased 15 percent; and the Gulf region, with almost 49.5 million pounds, decreased almost 1 percent. The Middle Atlantic region, with over 73.3 million pounds valued at nearly $114.8 million, had an increase of almost 5.4 million pounds (nearly 8 percent) compared with 2015. The average dockside price per pound of hard blue crabs was $1.36 in 2016 compared with $1.48 in 2015.

Oysters –  Oysters have the highest volume for marine shellfish aquaculture production  (35.2 million pounds

, up 5.7%).  Overall, oysters are our 9th most valuable type of seafood at $217 million.  The landing increased 21% in 2016 over the prior year presumably mostly due to the ongoing improvement of the oyster aquaculture industry. Yet relatively little of the industry’s production comes from the Delaware Bay region; we are not mentioned in the report.

New Jersey – Our state ranks second in landings of mackerel, scallops and clams and first in quahog. The state’s seafood processors and dealers employ about 1,600 people, not counting growers and harvesters.

End of crab season

Crab season officially ends tomorrow but I closed down the sales web site because we don’t expect any orders today. The crabs are still out there but only a few crab boats are in the water. They will leave the dock within the next few days.

The marina remains open until the end of the month for striper fishing.

The crab business will open again next spring on March 15. We look forward to welcoming a new marina manager

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, several new harvesters, and new restaurant and wholesale buyers. We have physical expansions planned over the winter with a mobile  cooler unit and walk-in freezer.

We will continue to enjoy our own frozen soft and hard shell crabs but we don’t have permits to sell them commercially in this form yet. Next season frozen crabs will be available commercially through another company.


Food security is one of many benefits of dock-to-table seafood operations

All of the crab in a New Jersey supermarket located less than 20 miles from some of the most productive crab harvesting ports in the region is imported from Indonesia. It’s generally considered an inferior food product and more susceptible to food security risks. We can do better!

Dock-to-table seafood ventures help solve a range of problems and a handful of risks for our community. This blog post focuses on only one: FOOD SECURITY.

What happens if any part of our food supply is significantly disrupted? We can only imagine the stress

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, panic and violence and possible starvation. Weather events, climate change, disease, sabotage as an act of war or terrorism, trade wars, political destabilization that leads to a loss of immigrant work force, loss of electric or fuel for transportation could all cause real hardship to our food supply chain.

Dock-to-table operations help by providing diversification

, decentralization and localization to the food supply. Generally the dock-to-table seafood is a higher quality and less susceptible to the risks listed. In addition, the two seafood products that make up most of our local harvest – oysters and crabs – are deemed less susceptible to the risks and might even benefit from the long-term trends in climate change and rising tides.

Investors in dock-to-table seafood operation typically purchase a right to a share of the harvest or at least first refusal of that share in the event of a wholesale operation. Restaurant chains

, for example, can control price and supply risk of seafood by contracting with a local dock-to-table cooperative in advance.

We will cover the many other benefits of dock-to-table seafood in other blog posts. Meanwhile, I am pleased to discuss the topic with anyone who may have interest as a career or as an investor.

Money Island in Philadephia Inquirer

On Sunday June 23, 2017 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story that covered Money Island New Jersey. Nantuxent Corporation’s founder Tony Novak is interviewed along with other business owners and Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell. The article drew some harsh criticism from the scientific community in response to the mayor’s comment that sea level rise damage is “hogwash”.

Read the article at:

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Living shorelines program gaining traction

The $880,000 Money Island and Gandy’s beach living shoreline restoration project is now being used as a model for other sites around the state of New Jersey. The new oyster intertidal castles are visible in this photo taken at low tide. The Press of Atlantic City published an update article today.


living shoreline restoration site at Money Island

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